It’s one of those food items that seems to make the world go ’round. In fact it’s among the world’s most traded commodities, and a multi-billion dollar industry many times over. So what does coffee have to do with tailgating? For those of us who have gotten up at the crack of dawn, or even before dawn, to head out to the lot after getting to bed late because you were preparing the next day’s festivities, you might reach for a cup or two (or 10) of Joe. Unfortunately coffee isn’t a true grab and go type of beverage for most of us since it has to be brewed. Sure, you can get up even earlier to brew some, or somewhere stop en route to the stadium, but you’re at the mercy of the person doing the brewing. I’ll be frank. Few things in life bring me down more than crappy java. Not to mention if you’re already running on zero and you’re facing an all day tailgate chances are you’ll need a few pickmeups along the way.
Before I go further I know what some of you are thinking, “Why not just grab a Red Bull or one of the other energy drinks?” Well, I would tend to agree with you that is a easier solution. However you do run into the problem of cost. I don’t know about you but I can put one of those away pretty quickly, and at $2 or more a pop, it adds up very quickly. But it goes beyond cost alone, there is the element of the psychological effects. Our friends in the northern latitudes who find themselves out in the December chill probably wouldn’t mind getting a little comfort and warmth from a hot drink rather than keep downing frosty cold ones. So that’s why I decided to look into coffee options for tailgaters.
The simplest choice for coffee, or any hot beverage for that matter, at your tailgate is probably going to be a thermos or other insulated container. One of significant quality will keep something hot for many hours and will likely be the best option for many tailgaters. The only caveat to this is that you need to have the drink to put in it which means brewing a significantly sized pot at home and filling it up before leaving the house. I’m sure many of you have been doing this for years, and if it’s working for you then by all means keep at it. Further considerations would be capacity, and durability. Some of these products are glass lined, and a significant drop may be all it takes to render it useless. To be fair that’s an unlikely scenario, albeit not far fetched. Among all the options I’ll discuss this is probably the most fool proof and simple to pull off.
If you’re in need of coffee on demand you might find it easy to turn to an instant variety. This method seems simple enough, just heat up some water, pour it in, and in a few minutes you’ve got something hot to sip on. This option is fairly affordable, and doesn’t take rocket science to do. Where this option might fall short is the taste. A lot of instant coffees are produced using inferior beans, and if you’re accustomed to coffee shop quality, you’re probably going to be disappointed. On the other hand, if you have no preference, you just want a caffeine kick, this may be the ticket for you.
The next easiest option would be some sort of press pot, or French Press. This is a brew on site type approach, and I’m somewhat biased towards this method as I’ve been using it for a while now. I find it produces a very good result. Basically you add near-boiling water to coffee grounds, steep it for a short amount of time (~4 minutes), and then use the device to “press” out the grounds. What you’re left with is a more authentically brewed, and likely, higher quality beverage. Despite its upside, this method is more involved and requires some special considerations. For starters the most, not all, versions of device are usually made of glass in someway and is at risk much in the same way as the thermos mentioned above. Furthermore the grounds need to be ground differently, that is more coarsely, than you would for a conventional drip brewer. Two of these presses that may be better suited to the rigors of tailgating, and subsequently be of interest to the tailgate community would be the Bodum Young, and the Bodum Columbia. The latter tested quite well with the people over at America’s Test Kitchen, and I trust their rating. If the price of those turns you off to the idea you might consider the Bodum Brazil which is a no frills, but still very useful and functional option. There are other manufacturers of these presses, but I personally own two Bodums and I think they’re great.
Obviously if you are lucky enough to have sufficient electrical power available to you, you can entertain the idea of an electric powered brewer. While I don’t have personal experience with this, I have heard and read that many of the “portable” electric brewers are underwhelming performers. If you’ve got enough AC juice then the typical drip maker that you might use at home in your kitchen may be your best bet. Just remember the filters! Oh and make sure you shut it off too…
Any method you choose is going to require it’s own special considerations, and just because I didn’t mention something above it doesn’t mean it wouldn’t work for you. I should mention that I took the “hot water” component for granted as I assumed that you’d have a way to heat the water. If it was me, I would just use my grill, or some sort of camp stove. Another key point would be to not overlook that you’ll need some cups capable of handing the hot temperatures. I don’t know how well a red plastic cup would feel in the hand when its full of piping hot coffee, and I really don’t care to try it. As always we encourage you all to share your Tailgating Ideas with us. Now where did I leave my mug?